Smoke on the Water, Fire in the Sky

This page written circa 24 September, 2001.

Almost two weeks ago, the morning news brought moment-by-moment report of terrible tragedy, as full of war as Pearl Harbor and as close to home as the loss of JFK: New York suffered attack of such magnitude that new age pundits are almost certainly racing to reinterpret Nostradamus' writings in a way that makes it look as if he predicted this to a tee.
I had my own appointment with terror two days later with the dentist, although the terror was in the anticipation not the aftermath: The failure proved to be in a wisdom tooth that was not only unopposed but that I knew ought to go, that took only the last 60 seconds of my 90 minute visit to vanish entirely from my mouth, and the removal of which caused neither pain nor discomfort then or in the next week.
Merinda and Teddy both spent the next week quite ill indeed, and with sheets to wash and temperatures a degree below the medical-response threshold I, and especially Kay, got way too little sleep and then our own doses of germs.
This week, to cap off a month of shelling, Agilent had its first layoffs ever in the 50+ years of the company's existence. Some faces I know are doomed to disappear, and some I am doomed to continue to see, contrary to all hope, expectation and apparently, common sense.

I should be grateful for the fact that all these things will have about equal long-term impact on me. I think I do not even know anyone who knows anyone who died in New York, my mouth is better off than before, the family is now quite recovered, I am in no danger of losing my job and none of our Agilent friends are expected to take damage even if their numbers come up. Somehow the month also saw me finish the new mantlepiece and much progress was made on the front garden renovation. And all these things, too, shall pass away.

In the mean time, the consequences of NY are the main topic. What will be the long-term effect on the stock market? What should the USA do? What should we do? In the short term, Kay is making ANZAC biscuits for a bake sale whose proceeds to NY via the United Way attract a company match... very American, but hardly worthy of news.

The most odd thing to me is that these terrorists do not seem to want anything in particular. Nobody owns up, no demands have been made. The IRA has clear and understandable goals. Palestinians simply want to establish Palestine. Do the guys who attacked this month just need someone to hate, and anyone will do? The USA has unnecessarily offensive habits of foreign interference---you can easily see how the Prime Directive might appeal---but if this is what stirs up the hornets one might expect to be told.

Educated Americans currently debate whether the country's response will be excessive. Americans are known for tight-arsed over reaction, after all. One memory recurs as I ponder how I would have my tax dollars spent as a consequence of the attack: When Merinda first started doing things malicious and selfish, we smacked her, but I suspect that all I have achieved that might not have been achieved some other way, was teaching her to smack.

Yesterday we had a thunderstorm, a rare event, and the first rain to break the Summer. We miss thunderstorms. (Mind you, Dan and Steph miss living with snow, which takes some imagination to appreciate.)

What do all these events have in common? Fire in the sky---be it lightning, war, illness or losing your job---keeps you on your toes, keeps life interesting. In Zardoz, bland immortality gave rise to a desire for death. From Newtown, from a tenured job, from bachelorhood, I came here. Only death stinks.

And the blade can switch behind you,
When you expect shells from the sky,
But you go, when it's your time.

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